Touching Sheaths in the City Accustomed to the Bizarre¹
The city where the horse-drawn carriage stopped at could not be said to be large compared to the urban area that I live in, but there are still a lot of people coming and going. When I listened in, I found out that there is a beach a half a day away, and apparently many merchants along with ordinary people come by in order to get their first looks at the sea.
Rather than an area where you would stop, plan, and prepare for a long voyage, this city is more of a crossroads that people just pass through.
Because there were mostly stalls rather than set stores, the second you step into the city, you are bombarded with the voices and calls of salespeople trying to separate the money from their potential customer’s wallets. Those merchants looked positively rabid entreating the men and women passing by who would most likely not be here tomorrow. It was that kind of terrifying scene that I found myself dragged towards.
There were many interesting, beautiful, or cute things lined up along the road. Due to my armor, I found it much easier to peruse the stall venues rather than the set shops that I normally look through. Add that to what Percival had told me earlier–that they had already sent word ahead and booked me the most expensive room at a hotel famous for its room service and delicious orange juice–and I was ready to enjoy my time in this city.
So for a while, I took my time roaming the streets and checking out the street stalls.
The Idira family is a noble house large enough to have one of their daughters be engaged to the prince. If a daughter of such a family had secluded herself and was constantly wearing armor, then there is no way that such an interesting story would remain within a country’s borders. People talk, and the border station is wide open.
Therefore, even in this town it is not surprising that people would know about me, but the looks that they were giving me were strange. They would all look over at me, but after a second, they would turn away. It is not like they were looking at me with disgust or hate like some other people did; it was more like they just did not care. I was just in their line of sight.
For example, whenever I would drop by the stalls, the people would be surprised for a moment, but it was only for that moment.
Indeed, when a couple running a stall looked at me, they clearly had some curiosity in their eyes, but when we started talking, the conversation quickly changed into me buying my meal. To them, it was far more important that my hunger be satisfied than any interest they had about why someone would become an armored girl.
It seems that this street is filled with stalls selling food from across the sea along with the local cuisine, so rather than any real interest in an armored girl, they were too busy trying to convince me to buy their food.
“No way, I have spent this entire day talking about nothing but food.”
“People come through this town from all over the country, and that’s not including the fellows I see from across the sea. I’m sick of being surprised at every single one of the bizarre customers I get to meet.”
“Is that so?”
“This one time a circus came through, and it was awful! Compared to them, some armor girl is nothing notable.”
I couldn’t help but smile as the shop keeper let out a loud and boisterous laugh.
Indeed, for these people, rather than a noble girl walking around in a suit of armor, I would have to actually be a walking suit of armor to hold their attention.
It is something that was unimaginable in the urban area where I used to live. Of course, even in a place like this, there were still one or two people watching me like they were looking at some strange animal. There were a few people whose stares I could feel, but they diverted their eyes when I turned to them, only for their eyes to return when I turn back around. There was one person who came up to me and asked if I was hot in here after beating on my back like a drum.
I told him that I was not hot, and then I walked away.
“What a nice city.”
Despite that horribly disgusting interaction, I still found myself smiling underneath my helmet.
Let’s visit this town again with Robertson when this is all over. I will sell off all the wine at the old castle for living funds, and I will live a quiet life by myself in this city where people rarely harass me. I could buy groceries and supplies every day instead of once a week.
But indeed, it does seem that the combination of an armor girl and spider is a rare occurrence… So I continued to wander the street stalls, and eventually I started to talk to a vendor with a sweet smile who ended up shaking his head shortly after I arrived. It is said that conversations and face-to-face meetings is an expectation in this town.
“Even if you are just looking, nobody will have any complaints. But if you just walk around not talking to anyone….”
“They’ll think I’m a bad person?”
“Well…. It certainly doesn’t help.”
This shop owner who had actually called me over to his shop took the time to tell me more about the city, and when he was finished with his story, I made sure to take a mental note to be more personable with the vendors I visit.
Once he was finished though, I noticed what the nice stall owner was selling. Hair accessories the size of your palm that were imitating flowers. Inside one of the ornaments that the shopkeeper held out to me were lightly colored stones interspersed inside the silver petals that shined beautifully even inside his hands.
I took a look at everything else lined up on the shelves. Among the miscellaneous accessories, this hair ornament clearly stood out as an expensive item which had been carefully kept inside a box to prevent any damage from occurring to it. No, maybe it is kept inside a box because nobody would look at the other hanging accessories if this one was on clear display.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”
It is. It would also go perfectly with my eyes, but even if I say that it would go perfectly with my eyes, it would not matter because you cannot see my eyes due to a silver helmet!
“People in this city are so cunning.”
The street vendor and I laughed together as I took the hair ornament that he was holding.
It is light, contrary to the glamorous look would suggest, yet it feels solid and well made. The workmanship given to the petals depicts a pattern I have never seen before, and when I asked, the street vendor told me that he had bought it from a peddler from across the sea.
The street vendor told me that he has not decided on a price yet as he cannot decide what something like this would be worth. I take another good, long look at it. My mind has already decided that I am going to buy it, but my heart was still caught on the fact of whether or not I could wear it.
During my hesitancy, a shadow passed over my hand.
Looking back at the familiar sounding voice, I saw that Percival was standing behind me.
His eyes were gently looking at the hair ornament in my hand. When he muttered the word, “light” while admiring the ornament, my gaze also shifted back to my hand. When the angle changes, the decorated stones receive the light in a different way, and they change color. It was a fascinating beauty that changes every time you move even a little.
“Are you buying it?”
“I’m just thinking about what to do. It’s cute, but even if I buy it there’s no point wearing it with the helmet…”
“I don’t think so.”
My eyes shifted away from the ornament and back to him. Did I mishear what Percival said? But his blue eyes were still looking at only the hair ornament. There was no humor in his expression or jokes on his lips.
I tried to ask him what he meant, but before I could, he lifted his hand, and he took the hair ornament from my hand. In the back of my mind, I imagined what I would look like while wearing this silver flower in my hair as Percival held up the ornament.
To my head.
To be more accurate, to my helmet.
“Yes, it looks nice.”
“This color is really beautiful. Since Monette is silver all over, adding a flash of color like this could really add a little sparkle.”
“…You know, the person inside is not silver all over.”
I shut my eyes tight for a second and held back the urge to slap Percival. Meanwhile, Percival kept looking at the hair ornament for awhile before he let out a small gasp as he realized his mistake. After he turned away and sweated for a moment, it was easy to tell what he was thinking.
I could not bear to watch him sweat as he tried to figure out what to do, so I turned my eyes away from the stall entirely. A man and a woman were standing together alone in an accessory store–although with the armor, it might be hard to tell that I am a woman–yet nobody is paying us any mind. People might give us a glance as they pass by, is this town just this used to bizarre spectacles?
“…Hey, who is that inside the armor?”
“Eh, probably just some middle-aged guy who thinks armor looks cool.”
Or so I overhear.
The place where the street vendor who was talking to me until now had suddenly disappeared at some point. He is probably hiding and smiling to himself right now.
Whatever. I let out a sigh inside my helmet before starting to walk to the next shop.
“I will not buy it after all. Even if I put it on underneath the helmet, nobody would actually be able to see it.”
I brushed off my pauldrons with a flick of my wrist, and told him that I would be back at the inn for dinner before continuing my walk around the street stalls.
Percival watched Monette’s silver back as it disappeared into the crowd, and when she was gone, his senses suddenly returned to him. His eyes turned back to the ornament in his hand, and when he went to put it back……….”Aren’t you going to buy it?” a voice spoke up behind him.
Percival jumped up in surprise, and when he spun around, he saw his lord looking at him curiously.
“Prince Alexis, I thought you were going to the inn.”
“Because I booked us a room, I thought about going for a walk. I was going to head back shortly, but then….”
Alexis’ deep brown eyes turned towards Percival’s hand. The flower hair ornament fit snugly in his palm.
“Are you buying that?”
“N, no…….It does not suit me.”
Alexis returned a smile to Percival’s joke.
But his smile slowly transformed into something more calm. He watched Percival slowly move to put the ornament back on a shelf.
“…..If you’re not going to buy it….”
“If Percival won’t buy it, then I think I will.”
Alexis looked unwaveringly up into Percival’s eyes.
His expression looked resolute, and you could feel the hidden meaning behind those words. In response to his declaration, Percival’s hand which was about to return the ornament to a shelf shook, and it stopped a short distance away.
“Of course it won’t suit you. I cannot wear it either, but…”
If you are not buying something for yourself, then you are buying it for someone else–or so Alexis was saying with a jealous look. Alexis’ gaze seemed to be saying that Percival should let go of the ornament as soon as possible. Chances are, the second that Percival lets go of it, Alexis would take the ornament.
Then he would call out the street vendor still hidden away, and he would buy it. What he was going to do with it after he bought it does not even have to be said.
Imagining the scene, Percival moved his hand once again.
Bringing the ornament closer to him instead of towards the shelf.
“Miss Monette seemed to be quite taken with this, so I will buy this…!!”
Alexis nodded with a bitter smile, as Percival made such a declaration.
Not knowing that such a scene was taking place, Monette was making her own plans.
“You know, it is a full moon tonight, and I thought about going to a nearby lake. Would you like to come with me? Dress up stylishly for the evening, and I will have a chef prepare a good fish for us to eat.”
I was talking to a well-fortunate cat that I met on the roadside.
It rubbed its belly and let out a *nyan*. I have never talked to this cat before, so is that a yes or not…?
1. Another meaning for ‘touching sheaths’ here is fighting over the heart of a woman.